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Rushkoff's Rules for the Digital Age

We talk with big thinker Douglas Rushkoff about his “ten commands” for living right in the digital age.

The digital world around us – Facebook, Google, and all the rest – has grown so big, so fast, that people come to think of it as a given, like gravity or the speed of light. Of course, it’s not. The digital world is thoroughly engineered, by human hands, and for human ends, like making money.

Big media critic and theorist Douglas Rushkoff wants to be sure we don’t forget that. Otherwise, he warns, as lives migrate to the digital realm, we run the risk of being slaves, not masters, of its power.

And the thing that gets programmed may be us.

-Tom Ashbrook


26493_rushkoff_douglasDouglas Rushkoff, teacher of media studies at NYU and The New School University and author of many books on technology, media, and society, including “Cyberia,” “Media Virus,” “Coercion,” “Nothing Sacred,” “Get Back in the Box,” and the novel “Ecstasy Club.” You can link to our last discussion with him, in 2009, of his book “Life Inc.” His new book is “Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commandments for the Digital Age.” You can read an excerpt.

Here are Rushkoff’s “10 commands,” as summarized by SXTXState.com:

10 biases of digital media/commands

1. Time. Thou shall not be always on. We are turning an asynchronous net as always on. He encouraged saying “My time is mine.”

2. Distance. Thou shalt not do from a distance what can be done in person. Using long distance in short distance situations. Don’t use distance learning in localized context.

3. Scale – the Internet is biased to scale up. Exalt the particular. Not everything scales, should scale or needs to scale.

4. Discrete – everything is a choice. You may always choose none of the above. Sites like Facebook promote forced choice, you have to choose from a set of options.

5. Complexity – the net reduces complexity. Thou shalt never be completely right.

6. Non-corporeal – out of body. Thou shalt not be anonymous. Rushkoff says “work against tendency of the net to promote anonymity.” Anonymity encourages becoming part of polarized mobs with no sense of consequence, it side steps prejudices. It is liberating to promote yourself online.

7. Contact is king (not content). Remember the humans. “Social marketing is an oxymoron.”

8. Abstraction – as above, so not below. Print abstracts text from the scribe. Hypertext takes it a step further.

9. Openness. Thou shalt not steal. When there is no social contract, openness can continue until there is no one left to give things away. Nothing is free.

10. End users – technology is biased toward consumers. Programmed or be programmed.

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  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    I like “program or be programmed” and as one who’s been using (and programming) computers since the punchcard days I’m not quite sure what Douglas thinks the average computer user should be doing differently.

    I’m comfortable under the hood of digital devices and I don’t really have a problem with hoods that don’t open: devices turning into appliances. Yes, this is taking some control away from users but so far it hasn’t bothered me in the least.

    I’m just not interested in modifying the micro code of a rice cooker or my truck’s ignition or fuel injection system.

    Aren’t there design and monetization decisions behind everything, including OnPoint and Douglas’s books?

    Yes, social networking sites have agendas and some of them are hidden but so do supermarkets, bookstores, coffee shops, and universities like NYU.

  • Zeno

    After watching the video clip I immediately wondered if this guy understands how his cars engine functions. Could he fix or modify it to make his interaction with the world better…and would it make it better?

    The obvious answer is, that it is now completely impossible to understand, or even necessary, to comprehend ALL technologies we use without resorting to a black box mental framework. Speaking of frameworks, objects are used to remove the redundancy, complexity, and error prone coding that plagued older programming languages.

    Very few people understand how their car works, and that lack of understanding does not limit the practicality or useful nature of the modern car. Indeed your car has many black boxes that cannot be repaired or even disassembled for repair, and if you removed all of the computers from your engine it would not function. Modern complexity requires some level of necessary mental and logical abstraction.

  • Ellen Dibble

    “Progam or be programmed” — sounds like lead or be led. So? As to design, monetization, and agendas as embedded in our digital reality, what comes to mind is “central planning,” in short Communism, successful (China?) or otherwise (USSR?). There was a market analyst who posted in some thread here something to the effect weren’t my micro-views of American re-organization a little disruptive to, let’s say, “analysis” and “planning”? Then I recall the deans of business schools saying they want to teach about “organization.”
    I would say micro being (dis-organization, perhaps) is essential to democracy. I would say such dis-organization is the last bastion, the last backstop or check-and-balance for freedom and democracy, ability to stand up to arrogance and wealth. (I am woman, hear me roar.)
    Tell me, in this hypertargeted political (as well as market) reality, how is it that the Republican candidate for governor robo-calls me? What key stroke or phone-polling would have me as a likely supporter? Oh, I am pegged as a maverick? So should we all be — variously disguised or actually untethered.

  • g

    Its impossible to program ALL the applications we use today. Speaking as a programmer. Not even the most skilled programmers and hackers would choose to do that. :)

    Douglas proposes that we learn the purpose of the application that we use and I am assuming then choose to use it or not, if we disagree with its purpose. How, is my question. By questioning and critically thinking about the underlying reasons?

    What is the purpose of electronic banking? Is it not to make OUR lives easier and better? Or is it to make the bank’s “lives” easier and better? After all, who paid for its creation? :)
    I think the old and faithful “Follow the money” concept applies here too.

    The problem as I see it arises when the up and coming generation of youngsters just take the existing technology for granted. Not knowing what exactly does their “membership” entails. When every single search you make from your computer can be linked back to you and provide others with a profile of you – that’s scary. To me. To them, its a given.

    I think you have to raise your kids to be a little more cynical these days, to think and to question what is in front of their eyes.

    But then where do you draw a line between a paranoia and big brother watching your every “click” and ability to live life “normally” in this digital age?

  • g

    Just found this … :)
    it seemed relevant.

    In short, as a writer, email correspondent, and text-only Web researcher, there was nothing I couldn’t do just as easily on my ancient, 640K pre-Windows machine as on my Windows behemoth. I even managed my mailing list and updated my website. My computer took up less of my life, and though it demanded a bit more physical intervention in the form of disk-swapping, it seemed to impose less on me, too. It was more transparent. Simpler. Quieter. In some ways, faster. Less concerned with its own internal maintenance, and more ready to serve me.


  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Zeno: By the way, I’ve rebuilt numerous VWs (old ones) but that doesn’t mean I feel slighted because my truck has a computer in it. I heat my house with wood and use a home-built (by me) hydraulic log splitter to process rounds and I work on both its engine and hydraulic system. Again, that doesn’t mean I have to do that kind of thing with all of my tools, nor do I want to.

    I want some of my tools to have black boxes (be appliances).

  • g

    As a programmer, I try to program an application the way that the users would use them. We try to make our online apps to be as user friendly as possible.

  • http://cyberfumes.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    Could your guest comment on the term “propaganda”? Although this word has a negative connotation attached to it historically, I believe that this negative feeling towards it keeps people ignorant to it’s power, and thus subject to being manipulated by it.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    I don’t buy the hypothesis: In order to get more out of writing with word processing software on a computer, I should attempt to design and program one.

    If that’s what Douglas is saying it seems odd to me.

    I’d rather work on my thinking and writing than focus on the writing software or tools I’m using to write (which are many).

  • yar

    What about the interface between law enforcement and the individual. The computer is the daily log of an individual’s life. Where is the pushback when a search warrant confiscates one’s computer to limit the search to a specific file type or date range? The pink elephant of reasonable search?

  • Tom in DC

    As a web developer I find it frustrating that the decision makers, executives where I work don’t “understand” what is under the hood. That’s where his argument comes into play. I think there is some virtue to learning how web apps/internet/etc work, at least in a theoretical way. People may not have to learn specific languages, but how those languages contribute to what they see/use. For example, learning what an OOP language is and what makes it OOP would be immensely useful.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Rushkoff should consider that we may not all be programmers, but we all need to understand what I’ll call the politics of the net, and I take it to be the responsibility of the media to keep us appropriately on guard.
    Google will point me to say 25,000 hits for something I want, and the top say five will be hits by some net-savvy marketer. We end up trying to get at what we want. So we learn. I accidentally hit an actual police log, by searching several who had been suspects in one incident, and who various police had interacted over one month. But I couldn’t find that log unless I entered that set of suspect names.
    One has to wit and then outwit any part of the net. I will bicycle out to Walmart to buy a gift card in order to avoid putting a credit card number on the net. I notice the banks offering toasters and free airplane trips if I will put connect, use their bank by net — even once by e-mail. How could it be so important to them? I automatically recoil when I see a computer-generated come-on. I’ll figure out what “they” are after later.

  • A Listener

    Great show!

    One of Apple Inc’s themes is to think of the computer as an appliance. I’m wondering if this theme has had a major influence on people’s perception of technology as being “non-configurable” as the guest speaker talks about?

  • http://cyberfumes.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    For all of you programmers that don’t seem to get what he’s getting at, I think all that he’s trying to say is “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” simply because the cover cannot possibly contain all of the information that the pages do. Just read the whole book before you put it on your shelf and tell everyone how great it is.

    Also, I can’t help but recall the quote from Tron: “Who you callin’ program, program”.

    The up and coming generation is not going to take technology for granted. They are going to take it over. Their generation will contain more programmers than any older generation could possibly train.

  • Dan

    I ended up deleting Facebook and going back to hand written letters. I am annoyed that people would rather text than make a phone call as well. I stopped using apps on my iPhone that would allow me to “check in” to places I visit, competing to be the King or Duke of that location for being the most frequent visitor. I feel less tied to my phone and I have more hours in the week now to do other things. I feel that the internet has become what the television has, a way to just waste hours vegging out.

  • http://www.venturacommenter.org F. William Bracy

    Video games and gaming. The guest is so embedded in his favorite theory that he’s not able to focus on the actual problem. Slaves to the digital age? How many game-addicted users could understand the bits and bytes behind the phenomenon? … why would they even want to?

    The world changed forever with PacMan. Film changed with Star Wars. It’s all entertainment and entertainment has overtaken all else, including the Arts and education. Who needs Armageddon when we’ve got drugs topped off with endless mind-numbing images of violent destruction.

  • Chris

    I’ve often thought that at some time conservative Christians would develop their own search engine to deliver only approved information, since they have already done that with book stores and radio stations. I’ve now heard that there are indeed search engines that filter information based on political or cultural biases. How common is this and what will the result be?

  • Nick B.

    You know the old saying – ‘Anything other than the command line is a toy’. ;)

  • http://cyberfumes.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    We are all going to get programmed by each other. That’s how society works. It is important that we realize that we can each contribute to this social programming process. Otherwise, we just become drones. You cannot reject all programming that comes at you, or else you will find yourself very lonely at the end of the day. It’s just important that we aren’t ignorant of this process, so that we can be active participants, rather than just floating along passively, which allows society to slowly crumble.

  • Jiminy Cricket

    As intelligent and even caring-sounding as Mr. Rushkoff is, all we’re given in the end is a slogan: program or be programmed. WTF does that mean in reality? So what if kids are taught to program? That doesn’t “fight” the robots. What he’s asking of us is to become a society of technocrats. His alarmist attitude doesn’t really change the culture, unless you like alarming people.

    Stanislaw Lem warned about the inevitability of our evolution into robots decades ago. And asking of us to become programmers, seems to me, only hastens that onset. It doesn’t prevent anything.

  • g

    public class Human {
    final int critical_thinking_capacity = 0;

  • http://N/A Joyce Newland

    Critical thinking tools he said…. what is difference in long run in his concerns and concerns of those who are upset that children thought all chickens had 3 legs because that is the way they came in the packages in the grocery store. How much can we learn when some children are not evne aware of the state they live in. Thanks

  • Nick B.

    skynet… O.O

  • Jiminy Cricket

    Another way to think about Mr. Rushkoff’s premise is that if he lived during the time of Gutenberg, he’d be asking all of us to become typographers, or else be typeset.

  • Kristen Precht-Byrd

    Hello Douglas,
    I am a professor at a midwestern university, and I am finding that the digital age is having an unforeseen consequence on college student writers. Students have trouble fully comprehending plagiarism and the ownership of ideas. Plagiarism in papers has increased enormously in the last ten years. This, it would seem, could change society in undesired ways if plagiarism, perhaps copyright, becomes blurred.

    BTW — I went to school with you, and I am so thrilled to watch your success.

    Kristen Precht
    Kent State University

  • John

    What does he think of electronic books v. paper books?

  • Bill in Nashville

    I’m interested in Rushkoff’s take on Qwiki – apparently an emerging form of multi-media, customizable information aggregation. How “programmable” will it be? Is it a game-changer, in either a good or bad way?

  • Eric Hanson


    My humble opinion: when you sit down at the computer (or any “screened” device), remember that you are making the device work for you. You are in charge, not vice-versa. We have to actively make sure our intellect and common sense are involved when performing any information search or social interaction. If our minds are fully engaged, we can weed out the junk and find what we are looking for. Don’t let your brain go dead just because you have a screen in front of you!

  • Keith

    As someone who’s worked with both hardware and software, I can sympathize, but I think it’s futile. People are too busy to figure out how everything works. And it’s only getting harder, as we’re driven to be productive and our tools get more complex.

    For years I’ve been telling friends and family to practice “caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware) not only with computers but with politics, religion, relationships, etc. But they just ask “So cut to the chase. What’s the final answer?” When I tell them there is no final answer, because the questions keep changing, and they just have to keep paying full attention, they throw up their hands and walk away.

    Perhaps we can do two things:

    First, encourage dissenting voices, the “marketplace of ideas,” and let the experts thrash it out.

    Second, pay complete attention to all passing conditions, including our own assumptions. It helps to see clearly if we suspend judgment; otherwise we only see our own judgments and wishes, not the thing itself.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I think I am hearing Rushkoff saying he’s a recovering multitasker. He is preaching the gospel of, um, concentration.
    To an ADHD society, this is news. I hear that parents of ADHD kids say that once they discover something they are really interested in, they get awfully concentrated fast. They no longer need medication. Redemption by focus. I suspect teachers discovered that a long time ago.
    A brother of mine was dyslexic and unable to learn to read until he discovered the Sears Catalog and specifically its pages on tools. Now this individual has for decades had and used double degrees in physics and computers, and has been located, courted and reeled in by Google. Wizard geek.

  • Stephen Metts

    Question to Douglas:

    Lots of Open Source Software endeavors, academic and governmental efforts to innovate to allow users BETTER approaches to all the complaints that Douglas is stating. i.e. google, facebook, ect. Please ask Douglas’ his take on specific changes and alternatives that are out there right now.

    Stephen Metts
    Parsons, New School, NYC

  • http://cyberfumes.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    My dad practically shunned me when I was playing World of Warcraft for hours a day. A lightbulb went off for him when I recently pointed out how much time he was spending managing stocks on his computer. At least WoW lets you socialize with real humans. To me, the stock market is no different than a casino where all the games are rigged. I believe listening to the market is like letting the machines run us.

  • Robert B. Pierce

    CPU: Consumer Programming Unit!

  • Ian Helmar

    i think you are using a false analogy comparing technology today to reading and writing.

    The subject is more analogous to the food supply system, supermarkets (search engines) resturants(applications) and cooking/snacking etcetera. Not everone needs to be a chef to eat.

    Not to mention that the liquidity of online business makes capitalism a driving force in selecting what people want and do not want.

  • http://www.venturacommenter.org F. William Bracy

    Here we have a millennial-aged overachiever. He’s able to speak well and I assume he’s a great writer as well, but a philosopher? … hardly. You really had to experience the day before TV, even, where literature was truly king in order to understand what this erstwhile young man is really only guessing at.

  • Rex

    The best way to know something is to start from the ground up. We don’t type before learning the alphabet.

  • Gerald Fnord

    Critical thinking? Few with any kind of arbitrary authority—owners, bosses, preachers, teachers—_really_ wants us to do that.

    Think of how good a job they’ve done at convincing us that the institution with some of the least arbitrary power—democratically elected government—is worse than they, somehow less clean than power derived from wealth or Tradition.

    To me, the worst part of the Web’s influence is its further extension of image and sound—which on the Serengeti we could always trust, and are wired directly into the Reptile Brain—as replacements for rational argument. One bright spot: perhaps people who ‘ve grown up manipulating images will be a little less manipulable thereby.

    And yes, green screens rule.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Dave, you say you are socializing with real humans via WoW, versus unreal humans in the World of Stocks. Hmm.
    I say it depends on our ability to abstract, to see the individual behind the tool (internet). I suppose you could say a physical individual is a “representation,” and we are seeing an “appearance,” an “apparition,” versus seeing the individual’s awareness, the individual’s soul.
    What can the individuals do together cooperatively. That’s the question.

  • beth

    I think Mr. Rushkoff missed a valuable teaching opportunity when one of your callers mentioned there is no difference in her mind between her daughter looking things up on Wikipedia, and her own experience in research thru Encyclopedia Britannica. In the spirit of Program or Be Programmed and teaching people what is behind various websites and programs, Mr. Rushkoff could have pointed out the difference is that articles in the EB were researched, checked, and double-checked before publication. Wikipedia, on the other hand, is not written by experts; as Mr. Rushkoff himself had mentioned earlier, it’s written by a collection of people who may be biased or have their own agenda, and who have a kind of competition going on about whose articles are published or read more frequently. The caller’s daughter may have been “programmed” to believe that Wikipedia is an unbiased source but it is not, and is not always factually accurate, either. And that, to me, is the fundamental difference between research done via Wikipedia or the Encyclopedia Britannica. It surprises me that Mr. Rushkoff did not address that point since it seems to feed his theory of Program or Be Programmed.

  • Elaine

    The use of Google for information is not as credible as people assume. I have heard and seen it while doing searches myself. Blocks can be put on information people do not want to come up. Even very important information, such as a British Parliamentary Report that is on the internet and comes up when searching other people’s names.

    I have also heard that you can pay Google to prioritize searches. I would be grateful for any comment on this.


    I’ve often thought that at some time conservative Christians would develop their own search engine to deliver only approved information, since they have already done that with book stores and radio stations. I’ve now heard that there are indeed search engines that filter information based on political or cultural biases. How common is this and what will the result be?

    Posted by Chris, on November 2nd, 2010 at 10:25 AM

    I see nothing wrong with using technology to filter out objectionable material such as pornography, inappropriate language, etc. However, I have found that the real problem is the world view of those who write the programs that contain these elements that Christians choose not to expose themselves to. For example, the attitude portrayed by many children in tv programs is that parents are stupid and out to make their children’s lives miserable (whether there is objectionable language or not).

    And there are “search engines that filter information based on political or cultural biases”. It’s called the liberal media.

  • Dinora Felske

    I think Mr. Rushkoff is right in pointing out the necessity of teaching our kids to program computers. A future generation of meek, consumerist technology users will only make people more easily manipulated. I see it even now, when clerks or bureaucrats who don’t understand what the computer is doing, relinquish their power and become as useless and impotent as a broken machine when trying to solve a problem. To empower humans (and the human mind) is very important. And since learning how to program is fairly simple, I embrace his proposal to teach it in elementary school.

  • joe

    3 Random Thoughts:

    1. How can people think programmatically when less than 50% of American children are proficient in math and parents can’t help them? (Throw in science as well.)

    2. Addictive software is a by-product of greed. Venture capital, getting rich at 19, the dot-com boom and bust, set the foundation to create software that makes people use it. The false pretense of wiz kids making stuff for “society to be better” is absolutely ridiculous. Sell me a bridge.

    3. Software and hardware should never forget who their creator is… humans. “Slaves to their devices” can be seen every single day in any environment. Isn’t it ironic.

  • Karol

    Part of the reason that people, especially students, no longer evaluate the ‘information’ they find online is due to the fact that there is no longer anyone in the schools teaching them this vital skill. I am a retired school media specialist (librarian). For years I taught evaluative research skills using both print, non-print, and online sources. We taught students how to evaluate the sources they used and the information they found. Most schools have now eliminated media specialists (librarians) entirely. The curriculum has not been picked up by any other disciplines in the schools. As always the students are paying the price in lack of skill, knowledge and evaluative abilities.

  • Ed Cobb

    So what programming language would he have us learn?

  • Ruby Sprowls

    I agree with the author–I teach rural businesses how to use the internet to grow their businesses and most are afraid of the technology and few rarely take the time to plan how and why the internet or other tools will enhance customer service or customer engagement and drive business growth.

    The assumption that technology i.e. Facebook is a waste a time–any tool is a waste of time if one does nto understand how the tool works or will benefit them.

    Technology should not be an intrusion, it should enhance the communication process. Such as sitting at the dinner table texting everyone thinks it’s rude but no one speaks up and sets boundries.


  • Tracey Friesen

    More important than learning programming, we need to learn what can’t be found by a Google search, and the basics of how the search algorithms operate.

    Mr. Rushkoff neglects to mention that adequate internet research skills require learning to judge the *authority* of information sources. Remember being required to cite your sources and to use some primary sources?

    Also, most authoritative primary sources are proprietary; they are in books and in databases like Lexis-Nexis, Factiva and Dialog. The “best” information is not available via Google or other Web search engines.

  • John

    I have a degree in Computer Science, and there still is much that is still a mystery to me about computers and the web. I have absolutely no expectation that my parents (one of which is a physical scientist) will ever learn programming. I’d be thrilled if they could just critically evaluate the chain emails that they receive and pass on!

  • Nathan Manning

    The risk is not with the developers or the people, it is the power of money and advertising, and the ambitions of megalomaniacs like Larry Ellison of Oracle, or multi-national corporate interests.

    The even greatest risk is the co-opting of thousands or millions computers by malware that allows them to be used as part of a super computer that has access to ALL of our information.

    I am a developer with 30 years of experience, but I still cannot keep up with all the technology.

  • Jan Freeman

    Yes, “think critically” — but that has little to do with programming. I was an editor when Google came along, and it took us all a few tries to realize that 5000 hits for “Neiman Foundation” didn’t mean that was the right spelling. You have to be able to ask the right questions to get reliable answers.

    I did a lot of research on 19th-century usage rules through Google Books — reading the original texts online, learning which ones were reliable by more research, discovering questions I hadn’t asked in the process. That’s research. Unless you bring skepticism to the process, any source in any medium can lead you astray.

  • Dennis.in.Omaha

    Two questions:

    David Cay Johnston explains that new programs and patents are registered in other countries even if the programmer is in the United States. So that whenever somebody uses the program, the company can pay its own overseas partner, then take the difference off of their own taxes. How does that help us understand our own technology?

    okay not so serious

    If a computer becomes sentient with artificial intelligence, is it then entitled to a sabbath day along with the user?

  • Kirk

    Open source software like linux and unix are freely available and instructive in just the way Rushkoff suggests to understand the underlying technology in its possibilities and limitations.

    There are choices in what technology you use, how to use it and to create your own tools / knowledge.

    There are also whole communities helping each other to get started, learn this stuff and build the next version. These are increasingly available in many places.

  • http://cyberfumes.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    Going along with the microwave analogy, I think it’s important to know not to put plastic in the microwave. I think this is the idea Doug is trying to promote. You don’t have to know how to program Facebook, but you should be aware when someone is trying to solicit you to put your name on a list.

  • http://www.acwolf.com aaron wolf

    Technology a poor replacement for real interaction with nature and other humans yet like it’s still great tool – just like a wretch, hammer, weapon, etc.

  • anna

    Anonymity is very important. It is hard to talk truthfully about certain things without that.

  • Liz Hill

    Dear Tom and Mr. Rushkoff,

    This was an immensely interesting conversation I just streamed in on. Unfortunately, I only could follow part of it and had to periodically mute the show as I was trying to complete my current project writing a creative brief at work. Like Rushkoff said, it’s almost impossible to focus full attention to a demanding task while multi-media mining. I even find it difficult to listen to music while writing or “thinking”. I’m amazed at those who can. I will send this link to my teenagers and devote undivided quality time to a second listen this evening. Thanks!

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    More and More I believe;

    Most poignant to me today is that we in the U.S. are going to the polls today to vote in the most important election of our lives. The voting has been turned over to computers and we are at their mercy. Can we really trust the results? I don’t think so, so how do we roll this advance back? Can we? The latest news I have heard is that Iceland and two or three other countries are abolishing their electronic polling machines in favor of the old manual types because they have realized that the results can be hacked or manipulated.

    Where I live we have the electronic touch screen machines (the worst of the worst). The only “record” of my vote is the four digit pass code printed on a receipt when I first sign in. How do you really “recount” that kind of voting? I am depressed every time I vote, at least I think I am voting, who knows?

    I still say vote, but be aware that a change is needed. Of all areas of our lives this is the one that is most in need of a return to basics. I doubt that our corporate voting partners will allow it though.

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    Dennis.in.Omaha @ 10:51 Not only will it be entitled to that Sabbath, but it will also be able to vote, oh wait, it already has that privilege. I guess it is ahead of the corporations a little.

  • Dennis.in.Omaha

    Okay Charles,

    So after an artificial intelligence reaches the age of maturity, it might be able to vote, but alot of the computers are manufactured or “born” in China. So they would not be allowed to vote here, and not allowed to vote in China because nobody there can vote.

    Now if people in China are denied an equivalent of Sabbath as they manufacture our computers, are we allowed to use them in our religious worship if that religion has a Sabbath?

    That is, if using a computer to celebrate a sabbath day with a multi-media meditation presentation for singing or praying, is based on using computers that are made by people in a Communist country… is that stealing freedom from others to express that for our own?

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    Tracey Friesen and/or
    Jan Freeman or anyone who can answer please help.

    I am a total novice at research on the web and have a very strong desire to do it accurately. Am I to understand that Lexis-Nexis, Factiva and Dialog all allow me to research original text, or are they just “authoritative” sources? They aren’t free are they? Is there a way to access them for free? Are there other electronic resources that are free, usable, and searchable, etc.?

    I base these questions on your postings herein.

    ”Also, most authoritative primary sources are proprietary; they are in books and in databases like Lexis-Nexis, Factiva and Dialog. The “best” information is not available via Google or other Web search engines.”Tracey Friesen, on November 2nd, 2010 at 10:49 AM

    ”I did a lot of research on 19th-century usage rules through Google Books — reading the original texts online, learning which ones were reliable by more research, discovering questions I hadn’t asked in the process. That’s research. Unless you bring skepticism to the process, any source in any medium can lead you astray.
    Posted by Jan Freeman, on November 2nd, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    So school me please, should I simply check on research courses at the local university? Is there an on-line resource? Thanks a lot.

    Please be sure an vote.

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    Dennis, you are way ahead of me. I bow (appropriately low) to your reasoning. thanks

  • Naimesh Kotadia

    I really enjoyed the talk on the very important matter to humankind today. These are real questions one should consider asking oneself and dig on it. Like my wife many others in around me know how to operate computers and internet as a whole but have no idea how to troubleshoot some of the minute problems with computers and dont know how to differentiate between wright and wrong information.

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    Ellen at 10:20
    What do they want? They want to tie you into their umbilical cord, they want to quantitize and qualify you for their “partners” offerings to be displayed at a later date or time. you are right to avoid them. Accept nothing legal over the web.

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    Ellen- Are you paying cash for your greeting card? If not, you may want to. Just saying.

  • g

    More and More I believe;

    and lunch time is doubly so! :)

  • g

    After thinking more about what Douglas was saying, this is what I think he means when he says that there is still time.

    We always had A, B or C to choose from, whether it was work, education, finances, etc. The illusion of freedom is US (humans, Americans, users, etc) choosing from A,B,C. But, it is the government, the society, the ruling class, the financial institutions, etc that choose to give us those options – the A,B,C.
    What Douglas I think is saying is that now the technology companies, like Facebook and Google and other big behemoths have their say in providing us with options – A,B,C. And right now, we still have a change to change or add or question, somehow interfere and impact what those given A,B,C options to us are.

    Now, is the time when it is still being defined, as the Web 2.0 is still being released/defined/set up.

    But in reality, I think, “resistance is futile”. To the general user of digital technologies it doesn’t matter if the choices are A,B,C or A,B,C,D,E. To them it matters that they can choose at all from any given set of options.

    Its always been that way and always will be.
    Only select few ever question the given choices and even fewer DO anything to change that.

    The most obvious example is politics. :)
    Vote for candidate A that you don’t agree with on these points or vote for candidate B that you don’t agree with on these points. Choose lesser evil? Choose the candidate that you agree with the most on the points that matter to you the most? Is that really a choice?

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    Hey everybody, I got quoted! “LIFE IS ILLUSION” (actually I don’t think I am the original author, but it did feel momentarily good.) so I have the illusion of power, watch out. Don’t google me, it’s not me, it’s a distant cousin that comes up.

    Off the subject, I just heard the news that more people are showing up at the polls than expected… a glimmer of hope. Has anyone tracked voter turnout at border polling places? I have this nagging fear that it would be easy to game the system and vote in multiple states. We really need to be dipping our thumbs in indelible ink if you ask me.

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    I have been mulling this theory for years were we could vote how our taxes are used by each of us getting two roles of pennies when we go to the polling station. As part of the voting process we would have available all these bins to put our pennies in. If we wanted all our taxes to go to defense, we put all our pennies in the defense container. Education, social programs, arts, health care for all, etc. etc. are all there. If we want one percent to go to each we put one penny in each. At the end of the day we would have a pretty good idea of what was really important to the American people.

    We have absolutely got to do away with this electronic “voting”.

    Oh yeah, please vote.

  • jpe Bradshaw

    Rebol is the best language for interacting with the internet easily. It can be made to “read” and respond to online information easily.

  • Joseph Whelan

    I hope to read Program or be Programmed soon. This morning’s program was very interesting, especially the point made by Doug Rushkoff about students writing research papers and uncritically citing Google, Wikipedia, and Encyclopedia Britannica as primary sources for support of theses. I taught English composition in a two-year college for about 21 years and read thousands of research papers. For most of that time, my students’ research depended on print sources from the library. The students were strongly advised that encyclopedias, dictionaries, anthologies, and various almanacs, were to be considered starting points only and would not be counted among the absolutely minimal five print sources necessary for a successfully documented paper. I pointed out that encyclopedia articles were often cited with a publication list from which the article was compiled, a good reference for finding more original materials. Other sources like live or taped interviews, TV programs or videos, or Internet findings were acceptable, but only as secondary to the print sources. The print quotations or paraphrased items had to be taken evenly from the five, preferably more, print sources. My hope was that the deeper digging would increase understanding and care for the research process itself, would possibly lead to uncovering insights obscured in translation, and, ultimately, would help to develop more critical thinking.

    Internet-based information sources, like Wikipedia and the electronic encyclopedias, I believe, should be treated as starting points as well. Treating them as primary sources is, for students, relatively easy, but sometimes unreliable, and often unconvincing; for teachers, irresponsible.

  • timothy newlin

    I’m encouraged that “critical thinking” came up in the discussion. Without it the World Wide Web will slide down the same drain as television. With that society altering technology, the great potential for education morphed into a sales tool where people became comfortable with paying a monthly fee in order to spend their time watching advertisements.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Anna, on anonymity, where Rushkoff’s Sixth Commandment is to avoid anonymity unless there is an issue of safety. Quick example: There is a local issues forum/blog that posted a piece of local reporting linked to another (much larger, and very active) forum reporting on an issue both “hot” and possibly a bit dangerous. I linked to the very active forum and posted anonymously; then copied that to the local reporting where mine was the only comment. So today I went out to do errands, and my distinct impression is that everyone knows I posted it, and know just what to do about it. The fact it’s sort of insider knowledge that I am Anonymous only strengthens my hand, in some odd manner. It hands them a bit more responsibility, lets them claim the points I made as theirs.
    Charles, it’s “gift card,” not “greeting card” that I buy in person. Without a car I have a hard time buying larger items, and if I identify such on the net, some (I believe WalMart is one; Peapod for food delivery is another) won’t let you place an order online and then call in with your credit card number (Barnes&Noble will let you do that). However, you can buy gift cards/certificates and save them for the middle of winter or whenever. I don’t mind if the supermarket has swiped my ATM card. I call regularly to check the status of that. If my credit card info is in THEIR computer, it’s their problem. If it’s in my computer, it’s my problem.

  • Ellen Dibble

    When something on the internet prompts you for your birthday, and the fine print says you have to be honest about it as a matter of law, is anyone idiot enough to comply? Just askin’

  • J Ross Dock Hester, PA-CH

    One of the best aspects of this article is the available comments from those Like Richard, Timothy, et al, who each have wise and useful perspectives but whose posts, like anything, must be read and analyzed critically and combined to be of greatest value. Just because one’s paranoid doesn’t mean everyone [from grocery store merchandisers to search engine providers] ISN’T out to “get” them or their purchasing power. We may not all notice the “man behind the curtain” but it’s important we all know to look [and watch out]for him.

  • John

    How do I get my VCR to stop blinking 12:00?

  • MahatmaBit

    “How do I get my VCR to stop blinking 12:00?” – John

    Excellent point John!

    But you know how to read the instructions manual. you know you can take the time and set the stupid VCR clock in a sequence of small steps. And you CAN see the VCR clock IS INDEED blinking!

    In the internet people do NOT see the clock blinking. BUT it IS BLINKING! :) and very few of us know how to program the internet/VCR clocks :)

    and that’s pretty much there is to this discussion…..
    (not true! but close enough)

  • GH

    >6. Non-corporeal – out of body. Thou shalt not be anonymous.

    I was with you until this point. I don’t think you understand how anonymity works online outside of the context of blog comments. There are plenty of advantages to it and reasons to be anonymous beyond threat of imminent bodily harm or political retribution to balance out the “meanness.” It allows people to be more open for one and without an attached identity people are less fearful of making mistakes. Further, there’s no pre-judging of a person based on even semi-anonymous (by that I mean, things not directly attached to one’s “real” identity) things like a user name or post count––it’s only your words and/or content that matter.

    Honestly, go check out some anonymous communities and notice that the level of discussion is actually pretty high even if it might be tinged with “meanness” at times (the people on 4chan, outside of /b/, for example tend to use better English than your average Facebook post or Tweet). But then again, much of that “meanness” isn’t really as mean in context as it looks to an outsider, perhaps you should consider it more in terms of a difference in culture than something requiring “civilization.”

  • http://www.acwolf.com aaron wolf

    I’m all for anonymity, especially for anyone working in corporate environments who want to get an ez date on line or on craigslist but don’t’ want their boss/underlings to know about their vulnerability (that is between you and craig I suppose).

    A missed point in this discussion is how so-called social networks establish a kind of (consecutive) morality. It’s your working self, your non-anonymous self, a social resume, the self your boss/underlings can know about you. In a word it’s the BORING you, the you that came out of some pod like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

    I always know within a few minutes of meeting someone if they are on facebook, they’re a type of individual, sort of like a choose your ending sitcom. They do fit into the options offered – no problem – and (here’s the scary part) seem rather thankful for having those option revealed for them as options of having any personality whatsoever, for someone who sits behind a desk all day, those options appear very liberating indeed…clearly they’ve been programed and there’s WAY more of them then us.

    As long as you can spend

  • http://www.acwolf.com aaron wolf

    and hour everyday our doors your doing better then most…

  • Tim Hoskins

    Programmed or be programmed; put a USB/bluetooth port on almost all devices and let us peek and poke via various smart devices like android and let me program it.

  • fortundalen viroqua

    I like the point that Douglas made tonight being that we should take a active role in understanding how the computer works and programing works it’s really a techno version of meet your farmer! Meaning that know the source of your food. so why not meet your programmer? I graduated from high school in ’95 and in high school computer programing basic and c++ was offered and the classes where elective but where full my wife graduated 4 years later and these classes where discontinued due to lack of interest and a lot of tech ed where canceled as well. I feel there has been a general lack of interest in the tech fields

  • http://none sam

    Computers are a wonderful source of information for us and no one is FORCING us to accept or reject things on the internet. However, regarding children, that is a different issue since kids are naive and can be used wrongly in any format. Parents must MONITOR kids and make sure they are not getting into trouble on the internet. Other than that, we adults can use the internet as a tool for improving our lives. And, finally, we do NOT need government to regulate our lives on the net. Lets keep it free with individual responsibility.

  • justanother

    ***I feel that the internet has become what the television has, a way to just waste hours vegging out.***

    Internet is a library, a tool, all depends on how you use it, break or build, all up to us.

    As far as Facebook, it doesn’t only limit on social conversation with friends or family, it provides all kinds of links that you “like” that update you with their daily topics or activity, then you extend your reading from there. Facebook is a multi-function tool, use it wisely can produce positive results.

  • Ellen Dibble

    The news from NPR has been that as the Internet provides more of the news and entertainment, TV cable providers are feeling the pinch, and will of necessity be reacting by boosting the costs of high-speed internet connections.
    In other words, if you have lived for decades without cable TV, now you will be paying those rates anyway, but for your internet service.
    The example was Google TV, where if you buy a Google TV (enabled to work like a computer, but I suppose with a remote-style keyboard; we’ll see), ABC (as I recall) is blocking the ABC TV links. Instead if you want to see an ABC show on your computer, you have to go to the internet — because there are millions of dollars of advertising revenue that can be made on the net, but not on Google TV.
    If I recall that correctly, it seems life will get simple again. But it will be the television that becomes unnecessary.

  • peter nelson

    Rushkoff is out of his mind. He expects ordinary people to program their everyday devices?

    I’m a software engineer and I’m currently writing Android apps. This requires knowing the Java programming language, including the class libraries and other components of the JDK and features of the JRE, plus the Android SDK and its major features such as the AVD’s and the DDK, not to mention whatever IDE you’re using such as Eclipse. Furthermore you have to know the basic architecture of Android itself down to its Linux kernel. And all of the above is predicated on having enough basic software engineering background to understand concepts such classes and objects and libraries and events and so forth.

    The idea that anyone who isn’t a professional software engineer would want to take the time and obsessive compulsion to learn all that stuff just to program ONE of the many devices in his life is NUTS!

  • peter nelson

    I feel that the internet has become what the television has, a way to just waste hours vegging out

    The big difference is that TV is totally passive – there’s only one way to use it: it sends and you receive. But the internet is a tool that you can use however you want. You can certainly use it passively spending all day listening to music or looking at lolcats. But I use it to write software. I also use it to do research, manage my investments, participate in politics, buy and sell things, etc. And the devices in my life use it to help me, for example, my phone accesses traffic data from the cloud when I’m driving to keep me out of traffic jams.

  • IamYou

    His commands are nonsense and ridiculous and self-righteous. I think there is a value to being anonymous on the web, especially in an of age cyber-spying–the biggest culprit being the FBI and the government. peace activists, dissenters are seen as terrorists–just ask karl Rove or Dick Cheny and all those zombies that support neo-con views of the world. I think people are more honest when they use nick names and its more fun.

    Why do you want people to not say what they really think?

    Do you want everybody to be conformist drones in a ultra-potie world of formalities? What’s wrong with being a little offensive–some people are offended by the tiniest things when others are more real and accepting of human nature. Humans are vulgar–accept it!

    SOme people have outmoded beliefs or insane beliefs–should we tip-toe around each other?–sounds like a dystopia to me. i find in your face honesty very refreshing.

    I’d rather sb. tell me they hate me then lie to my face and pretend to like me. There is nothing I hate more than superficiality and pretentious shallow vessels. There is nothing wrong with a vigorous debate! Why are Americans so afraid of this? So GD puritanical.

    And many people, not me, can lose their job by disclosing their identity on line because fascist puritans despise people with thoughts and/or free-thinking people who challenge their self-righteous and oppressive controlling beliefs.

    The Internet works well under anonymity. it would not be the same if everyone disclosed his true name-what next you want an address and phone number and promise to think like you? I am actually annoyed by people who use their full names–I feel a kind of self-superiority and arrogance from them. i really dont care what their name is. It doesnt matter anyways–i will never meet them or see them. And nick names convey a sense of self or spirit–an avatar. Its the same GD reason we read books or write books or play video games or act, or celebrate Halloween–we can assume new roles–we are not confined to YOUR expectations. Its fun. Get over yourself cyberboy. You annoy me.

  • Ellen Dibble

    If you want a job with people who wouldn’t like who you really are, then you want to use a nickname. If you want everyone to have easy access to who you really are, not just the facade you seem to think is the norm, then you want to use your actual name. By the time you show up to make your point before the school board or at a job interview or whatever, someone actually might appreciate your views and find no need to “take a chance” on you. They know exactly what they’re getting. And you can count on having like-minded people being able to identify you as you go about your business. Even without using the video features, even without having a web page, this is true. Claim your true identity. Be proud of it.

  • http://rubenbernardino.wordpress.com/ Ruben Bernardino

    I find Rushkoff’s position very corageous and of course quite controversial. His message is critically urgent and liberating. He has allowed me to reflect upon the reluctance and rebellion I have always consciously or not had against the totalitarian aspects of technology where the choices available are only those created by the Powers that Be who create and ultimately capitalize or as he puts it, to monetize on humans using these technologies. I am confident to understand the big picture as I feel very free from prejudice on this matter being both a humanist and a technologist. It is too bad that Douglas often gets his message misunderstood or lost in translation due to the anxiety people get when they hear they need to learn how to program or to understand the engineering/workings of our extremely diverse and increasingly complex technology. But the actual message has in fact little to do with technology as it is ‘DO NOT BE SHEEPLE, DO NOT FOLLOW THE HEARD AND BECOME MANIPULATED BY THE POWERS THAT BE AS IT HAS ALWAYS HAPPENED SINCE THE DAWN OF CIVILIZATION FROM THE FIRST PRIESTS TO TODAYS’ CORPORATIONS. THINK CRITICALLY, DO NOT TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED AND ASK EVEN IF THAT MEANS GOING AGAINST THE CURRENT SO THAT YOU CAN BE MASTER OF YOUR OWN DESTINY, AND TRULY FREE. This critical thinking is the basis for human freedom, progress and dignity. It is the nature of humanity to develop forces that repress such thinking but history has shown us there is always a number of emergent cells that dare to think and wonder whether reality is really what culture, society, politicians or religious leaders tell us it is. As a prime example I think of Copernicus or Galileo who had the courage to challenge the Catholic church claiming the Earth was not the center of the universe. Digital technology mindfully used can be a great enhancer for the human experience and a tool to make a better world, but at the same time we cannot ignore that it is more often than not used to perpetuate the current consumerist manipulation and control of people keeping them dis-empowered as they literally buy into it without question. In this negative aspect not just digital but all consumer technology has become the modern version of the same submission of the masses we have had throughout history such as in the middle ages. We need to see Rushkoff’s message not so much in the context of pure technology and programing as much as in the context of ethics, philosophy and psychology. It is a manual to defy modern day manipulation disguised as technological diversion and power.

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    John@ 145211022010 A small piece of electrical tape strategically placed will solve the flashing light problem on your vcr.

    Ellen@ 2:18pm 11022010 I am just paranoid is all.

    Ellen, what about my penny polling” idea at 12:21pm on 11022010? I would appreciate your feedback.,charles

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    IamYou@103311032010- actually you aren’t, but “Though art God”, I will give you that.charles a. bowsher

  • g


    I think your idea of voting with pennies is great. But you are talking about taking the power away from the people who decide now what our taxes get spend on and what the percent allocation each “section” gets.

    I think those in power now who make those decisions certainly need to be attuned to what the people want.

    I think you are coming at this solution from a direction of not liking where our tax money goes now.
    For example I would vote to spend significantly less on military and a lot more on education, health care and foreign aid. If majority of Americans vote the same way, we may end up with underfunded military and no one wants that.
    Plus, if these decisions get made once every lets say 4 years, lets call it a “budget allocation”. What happens if we are attacked and need to spend more on defense? Would the government say “no, we cannot spend anymore money on this because all the money budgeted for this category already spent”? Of course not. I hope not. So, the “extra” defense funding would need to come from somewhere and it would be the other “categories”, like health care and foreign aid and education.

    Also, I think that this is the reason we have elections. We vote for people who represent our beliefs about policies, including government spending. And when the majority (or in our case – the electoral college) picks an incumbent, they show which policies and procedures they support.

    But, I also think that your question would fit more the other forums, especially this week, discussing the elections and politics.
    : )

    But other than that, I think its great. I wish government spend my hard earned money the way that I want to and of course my way is better than anyone else’s. (joking) :)

  • g

    your rant and rave about anonymity is understandable.
    You do not wish for there to be consequences about anything you say online to be carried out in real life.

    Internet has become a place where norms and morals and values are forgotten and forgone. Emails can carry incorrect spelling and rude tone, same with chats, forums, comments, etc.

    If you feel that you can come online and speak your mind, i.e. say racial slurs, be obscene, vulgar, obnoxious and otherwise impolite, YET in real life you never allow yourself to act that way BECAUSE of fear of consequences, then who is a lying two-faced person?

    You are, of course.

    What Douglas I think is saying is that “what makes you think that you can hide behind the veil of anonymity on the nets and act differently than you would in real life? If you acted like a jerk to people in real life, you KNOW what would happen. Same should happen online.”
    And that’s what I think he is promoting.

    I don’t think there is another way to accomplish accountability online without everyone disclosing their identity and standing behind their words.
    Just like you do in real life.

    And not being two-faced lying scum bag who can go online and vent his frustration and ignorance on other people.

    FYI, in real life, I would ignore your comment(s). :)


  • GH


    So, why aren’t you using your real name here, “g”? Are you a “lying two-faced person”?

  • http://www.xmission.com/~ddmayne ddm

    I found the program interesting, and I agree with many of the author’s premises. He hits the mark on many points, especially about commercial entities like Facebook. However, I am not sure that his ninth rule is entirely on target. The digital nature of data with near zero cost of duplication and transmission dramatically changes the playing field. The internet allows anyone to self publish their work and cut out the middleman entirely. Some notable artist are onboard with the change and have given away creative works (Radiohead -> “In Rainbows”, BF -> “Memento Mori”, etc.)

    There is valuable information that can be had for near zero cost. The wikipedia is the most prominent example of in depth world knowledge online and available to anyone with an internet connection.

    There is also valueable software that can be obtained for no monetary cost. The free software and opensource software movements provide a working set of tools that can provide a set of baseline tools for accessing the digital world around us. Richard Stallman’s GPL software license gives users rights that are unusual, especially in this context, where Rushkoff says that nothing is free. Stallman counters with these rights as part of his software license:

    0. the freedom to use the work,
    1. the freedom to study the work,
    2. the freedom to copy and share the work with others,
    3. the freedom to modify the work, and the freedom to distribute modified and therefore derivative works.

    Ironically, Rushkoff is advocating studying the work (listed above as Freedom 1.) It seems like Rushkoff and Stallman should be more on the same page with one another, rather than Rushkoff’s blanket statement that “nothing is free.”

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Rushkoff's Rules for the Digital Age | WBUR and NPR - On Point with Tom Ashbrook -- Topsy.com

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